How to Prevent Pest Infestations
Preventing pests from entering your home is a central tenant of Integrated Pest Management. By taking active steps to bug proof your home, you can prevent many insects from becoming pests. By using less insecticide in and around your home, you lessen human impact on the harmless and even beneficial insects. Nature is a delicate balance that should be understood and respected.
Insects play a vital role in the environment, and we should always seek to lessen our disruption of the balance of nature. For example, the much-maligned termite is a necessary decomposer. Termites feed primarily on dead wood and plant materials, breaking them down and recycling nutrients for further plant growth. However, they are classified as pests when they attempt to break down and recycle our homes and structures. The complete eradication of one insect species may cause an unnatural increase in the population of another. For example, the larvae of parasitic wasps help to keep populations of caterpillars, leafhoppers, and cicadas in check.
Many pest insects are food sources for birds and other insect feeding species. Therefore, a rapid decline of insect populations could be followed by a decline of more desirable species. Of course, not all pests are insects. Rodents, gophers, rattlesnakes, weeds, spiders, and pigeons are a concern among homeowners, though they also have a role in the ecological balance.
While appreciating the many jobs of insects in the environment, we need not compromise our own interests and invite them into our home. By using the following information, you can modify your home to bug proof it and make it less attractive to them. By making changes to our behavior, we can discourage pests from entering our homes, usually without even applying pesticide.
If done correctly, pest proofing your home is a long-term savings in pest management costs. Often, homeowners rely on costly regular pesticide applications to either keep insects from coming inside or killing them once they are inside. By following the general measures provided in this article, you can prevent pests from stepping foot inside your home.
Many pest control companies offer pest proofing services. Once your home is properly sealed up, you will not only experience fewer pests with no insecticides applied, you may also have the added benefit of lower utility bills. The first step is to conduct a thorough inspection of your home.
- Screen all openings. Include screens (20 mesh or finer) on doors or windows that can be opened, and on all ventilation openings. Maintain all screens in good repair. Screening stops the entry of many pests; however, certain tiny pests, such as aphids and leafhoppers, can get through standard mesh screening. The only way to deny entry to these small pests is to keep windows and doors closed.
- Install door sweeps or thresholds at the base of all exterior entry doors. No light should penetrate underneath exterior doors. The bottom of garage doors can be fitted with a rubber seal (not vinyl as it performs poorly in cold weather). Sliding glass doors can be sealed by lining the bottom track with foam weather stripping.
- Door seals. Be sure to inspect all seals of doors including the tops and sides. This is especially true for double doors that lack a central vertical support.
- Fill cracks. To exclude rodents, lizards and insects look for cracks around windows, doors and in fascia boards. For small cracks use good quality silicone or acrylic latex caulk. Latex-type caulks clean up easily with water and can be painted although they are less flexible than pure silicone. For larger openings, fill with a strong material that matches the structure such as wood, cement, sheet rock or mortar.
- All outside doors should be self-closing. If this is not possible, a second screen door should be installed. This is particularly important for areas of scorpion or snake activity.
- Seal all utility openings. Include entry points of pipes and wires, around outdoor faucets, gas meters and laundry vents. Cracks should be cleaned, and any peeling material removed. The hole can then be filled with a suitable sealant.
- Repair leaky piping. This will reduce water availability to pests. Inspect plumbing regularly, as a problem may not be apparent. Water damage can also weaken walls creating additional entryways.
- Install wire mesh. Use 1\4” hardware cloth over the attic, roof, chimney, and crawl space vents in order to prevent entry of birds, bats, squirrels and rodents. Wear gloves when installing hardware cloth, as the wire edges are extremely sharp. Mesh screens can also be installed around the base of portable classrooms. The crawl spaces are attractive to many pests such as widow spiders, scorpions, cats and rodents that may create further insect and health problems (e.g., fleas, ticks, lice, etc.).
- Use airtight storage containers. Especially true for pet or human food. Certain small ants can gain access into ordinary jars by following the thread. If in doubt, keep the food in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Employ good sanitation procedures. Vacuum up all food crumbs; do not let soiled dishes sit out overnight. Dust under kitchen appliances and clean pet food dishes.
- General yard clean up. Remove clutter, in particular leaves and grass clippings from around the foundation and clean out window wells and drainage guttering. Prune shrubs and tree limbs touching the house to eliminate entry points.
- Use pest resistant trash receptacles. Lids should be self-closing with a tight seal. Dumpsters must be steam cleaned frequently.
- Pest proof your compost bin. A well-maintained compost bin will not attract pests into the area. Do not compost any meats, fish, bones, oils, fatty foods or dog/cat manures. Burying food waste into the center of the pile will reduce smells that attract pests. Ensure that each layer remains slightly damp and turn or poke holes in the pile every week or two to discourage nesting. Harvest finished compost at the bottom of the bin every three to six months. Avoid rodents and other small animals gaining access with a secure lid and stop them from burrowing in by lining the bottom and sides of the bin with hardware cloth (galvanized wire mesh).
- Encourage birds and bats. They are excellent predators of pests. To persuade birds to take up residence in your yard, plant trees or shrubs for nest sites, and provide a fresh water source. To encourage bats, put up houses for bats to roost in during the day.
- Plant flowers. This will help to encourage many beneficial insects. For example, the annual flower, alyssum, attracts flower flies and tiny parasitic wasps. Wildflowers and native shrubs are an effective and attractive addition to a yard.
- Regular maintenance checks. This requires a specific “walk-around” to inspect areas of previous insect activity and ensure all pest-proofing measures have remained intact.
By investing the time and attention in pest proofing your home, you may prevent many time consuming and expensive problems. Your home is likely your most valuable asset, by paying attention to the details listed above you are protecting your home from pests and other kinds of damage. Many pest control companies offer pest exclusion services, if you are unable to do it yourself.
After thoroughly pest proofing your home, insect incidents should be reduced. However, for the occasional ant, roach, or fly that finds itself inside your home, a fly swatter, vacuum cleaner, or broom is effective and pesticide free!